Bears

Hub Arkush: Extra uncertainty around this year’s draft should favor Bears

Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Poles speaks during a news conference Jan. 31, 2022 at Halas Hall in Lake Forest.

There are any number of reasons the NFL draft is often referred to as a lottery.

History has proven that far more players drafted will fail than succeed. Most will not perform up to their expectations, many will outperform projections from where they were taken and a few will even prove to be diamonds in the rough.

Summing it all up in one word, uncertainty is one that certainly works.

And a majority of NFL analysts will tell you the 2022 draft is even more uncertain than most.

There are several reasons, starting with the sheer size of this group, enlarged by players that took advantage of the extra year granted them to complete four full years of eligibility in school because of the pandemic.

It also has been more difficult to evaluate some players that opted out in 2020 or saw their seasons shortened or canceled by COVID-19 but are still coming out this year as redshirt sophomores or juniors with less game tape to evaluate, which is so much more important than combine results, pro days or workouts.

While this is not unusual, it seems there are more top prospects this year either rehabbing injuries or who suffered serious late-season injuries making trustworthy physicals impossible as they continue to mend.

Teams develop patterns that usually see them drafting best athlete available, best player available, best player among several areas of need or just filling their greatest needs, allowing other clubs to plan around what teams might be doing ahead of them and who might still be available.

But when clubs have multiple high picks, it isn’t surprising to see them use one as they normally might and then take a flier with the other(s) in search of a special player regardless of needs, schemes or fits. And it is highly unusual to see as many as seven teams (Texans, Jets, Giants, Eagles, Saints, Packers, Chiefs) with multiple first-round choices.

All those teams with extra picks, as well as the seven left without first-round choices, is also likely to lead to a higher number of trades happening on the clock that will further shake up the boards of teams waiting to pick.

On top of all of that, if you’ve got specific needs, rarely have we seen certain positions as deep as they are, while others are quite shallow in what we think will be top-end talent.

And with at least seven (Texans, Giants, Panthers, Falcons, Seahawks, Saints, Steelers) quarterback-needy to desperate teams, and knowing QBs are almost always over-drafted, while there isn’t one this year with a high first-round grade – and maybe only one or two with first-round grades at all – how many will go in the top 30 or 40 picks, leaving better talent at other positions to drop?

So with all of that to noodle – and the Bears sitting without a first-round pick and only six overall – does all the uncertainty favor them or put them in an even more difficult spot?

It has to help, at least from where I sit.

First-round talent will slip to the 39th pick and possibly even to 48th, and some clubs will overpay with an extra pick or two to come up and get one if the Bears are inclined to deal, or they could be prospects the Bears love and will take themselves that might not otherwise be around.

It’s also a big plus that their greatest needs – wide receiver, offensive line and safety – are arguably the second, fourth and third deepest groups in this draft. Edge rusher is first, while QB, running back, tight end, defensive tackle and inside linebacker are all relatively thin, but not areas of nearly as much concern to the Bears.

Of course, since this is general manager Ryan Poles’ very first trip to the market as the man in charge, we’re only guessing as to how well prepared and how talented at picking winners he’ll be, but these conditions could very well favor him scoring high in spite of the limited assets he has to start with.

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush is the Senior Bears Analyst for Shaw Local News Network and ShawLocal.com.